Awakening. Forgiveness. Release. Love

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I celebrated my 29th birthday this year in the deserts of South Africa’s Tankwa Karoo National Park, uniting with over 10,000 other lovers, dreamers, connectors, artists, visionaries, dancers, performers, and just plain good human beings to create Africa’s annual regional Burning Man event, Afrikaburn.

I regard my birthday as my own personal New Years Day, and while I seldom utilize NYE to craft resolutions for the following calendar year, I take the commemoration of my birth into this world quite seriously, and spend weeks at a time contemplating my intentions for the coming year. Leading up to the desert festivities this past April, I was emerging from a series of less-than-pleasant realities and experiences, scrambling to reassert my place in the world, and the words “forgiveness” and “awakening” were already burned into my mind (no pun intended…unless you like puns). At the same time, I was rapidly tumbling into love with an unfathomably remarkable human being, but the concept of romantic love still frightened me to no end. I entered the Afrikaburn experience with the intention to find my intentions and assert my completed dedication of what would be my 30th year on this planet.

On my birthday, we wandered through the wooden (and soon to be burned) art installations that decorated an already stunning landscape. At the center of the Binnekring (the inner ring around which all theme camps and goings-ons of the Burner community were situated), was the temple – the most sacred of all installations at any Burn – which took the shape of an unfolding lotus flower. It was simply titled: Awakening. These temples are intended to “provide sanctuary for you to release, and ultimately burn, all that no longer serves you. And so Awakening is intended to be somewhere you can meditate, contemplate, rejoice, mourn, release and celebrate. A place for ceremonies of love, commitment, farewell and friendship. The lotus, an ancient symbol of rebirth and awakening, invites you to consider what you want to awaken in yourself…” And it was here that I discovered my intentions for my New Year.

Scrawled upon the apex of each of Awakening’s four surrounding leaves were four simple words: Awakening. Forgiveness. Release. Love.

I had found my mantra, my guiding principles, my intentions.

The subsequent months have been an ongoing internal journey to unearth what these ideals mean to me and why they found me in the first place just as I was looking for them. I reflect on them every single day, particularly at the beginning of a meditation or a yoga practice, or under a Full or New Moon. Lately I have been checking in to see just how far I have come this year, and how far I have to go before I reach 30 next April, cocooned by the warm energies of my third Afrikaburn.

Emotions have been high lately, for me and for millions back home and around the world. For a while I thought it was for the same reason everyone else has been so upset (I almost let this post turn into an election rant, but I do not need to dedicate any more writing energy to that…everyone else in the world is). I have realized that in addition to my grief, my good wolf and bad wolf are just doing what they do best: battling for control of my heart, my mind, my identity. Global tides of late have made it hard to feed the right wolf, I’ll admit, but these same tides have been a powerful reminder of the power of Awakening, the power of Forgiveness, the power of Release, and the power of Love to heal our collective wounds, to bind us in collective action and to move forward together towards a more just and loving world.

But what of my progress towards my own intentions as they affect my direct human experience? I feel as my place in this beautiful country becomes a bit more blurred, it is easy to be lulled into a waking sleep, easy to harbor resentment towards those around me who bring me annoyance or pain, easy to hold on to negative emotion, and harder to spread love to those around me.

At yoga yesterday, we were asked to think of what we were thankful for and come up with a mantra. I felt grateful for all of the incredible souls in my life, both here in Uganda and across the planet, filling my list of Whatsapp conversations. My mantra was, again, simple:

I love deeply, and I am deeply loved. 

I’m not sure how far I’ve come to be honest. It’s hard to see when navigating the ups and downs of my emotional and mental states, when I find myself lulled into a waking sleep. But maybe Awakening isn’t a starting point? Maybe it’s the end goal? Or maybe it’s easier to mix up the order altogether? Maybe focusing on all the different forms of Love in my life will bring a sense of Release from the pain I carry, and maybe once that pain is released, I can more find more complete Forgiveness for those who have fed by bad wolf throughout my life. Perhaps the first intention, Awakening, hinges upon these three.

I suppose I have 5 more months to figure it all out, but as I sit in limbo between a “high” and a “low” state, I have to use every opportunity I have to reflect on what is important to me. I guess we all should. And maybe it’s not linear – maybe all these intentions work in some cosmic pattern that jumps around and makes absolutely no sense.

Or maybe it’s quite simple. Maybe it all starts – and ends – with Love. I guess all things should.

My favorite lyricist, Nahko Bear, reminds us all to “find your medicine and use it.” I personally believe that we do not need to wait for a New Year, a birthday, a yoga class, a meditation, a prayer, or really anything to set intentions. It is something we can do every single day when we wake up, or any moment thereafter. Reflection is critical to personal growth, and often these words and mantras can do wonders for the soul. I challenge you to find your intention, and use it.

Hopefully, we can all find space for Love in there somewhere. The world needs it.

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A Father’s Wisdom

The past week is the first time in my life that the prospect of having children has terrified me.

I’ve said countless times before that one of my purposes on this Earth is to make it a better, safer and more just place for my future daughters to live. After the increasingly dismal outlook for the future of this planet that has unfolded since November 8th, 2016, I have questioned my ability – and the ability of humankind as a whole – to bring that purpose to fruition. How am I supposed to explain this world to my future daughter, the young girl I have dreamed about since I was a teenager, the one who will hopefully look to me for guidance in navigating the sexist, racist and unforgiving reality into which I will ultimately bring her?

As with many other moments in the past 10 days, I found comfort in words spoken by President Barack Obama – not words to his fellow Americans, but words he spoke to his two daughters to explain what happened:

“Societies and cultures are really complicated. … This is not mathematics; this is biology and chemistry. These are living organisms, and it’s messy. And your job as a citizen and as a decent human being is to constantly affirm and lift up and fight for treating people with kindness and respect and understanding.

“And you should anticipate that at any given moment there’s going to be flare-ups of bigotry that you may have to confront, or may be inside you and you have to vanquish. And it doesn’t stop. … You don’t get into a fetal position about it. You don’t start worrying about apocalypse. You say, O.K., where are the places where I can push to keep it moving forward.”

Thanks, Daddy-O. We all needed to hear that.

Stronger. Together.

I was wrong. A lot of us were wrong.

I was convinced that hope and basic human decency would prevail, that the voices of those who have been continuously barred from acceptance in American society would be offered a voice, or at least a nod of solidarity among other Americans that says “we do not support this man who has bombarded you with hateful rhetoric for the past year (and throughout his entire career), and we believe we are stronger together.”

I was wrong. So I began to grieve.

I grieved throughout my sleepless night on East Africa Time watching the results pour in from 3:30am to 11am. I grieved when Trump took the stage. I grieved when he said “This political stuff is tough!” I grieved when Rudy Giuliani compared Trump’s appeal to the people to that of Andrew Jackson, a man who fanned the flames of genocide and still wound up on the $20 bill. I grieved when both Putin and Duterte praised the election results and showed that they were both in his court. I grieved at the terror felt by Muslims feeling that “open season” on Islam in America is about to begin. I grieved at the terror felt by black Americans as they watched that brief glimmer of hope that white America was finally waking up to the fear in which they live on a daily basis suddenly vanish into oblivion, and I grieved at the idea that the fear many white Americans have of becoming the minority merited any collective action at all. And I grieved when it was announced that an outspoken alt-right white nationalist would soon hold one of the most powerful positions in the country as Trump’s Chief Strategist.

I grieved when I realized this is going to keep getting worse before it gets better.

And yes, of course, I was grateful for the immense support and solidarity I felt from my friends from all across the planet (one text message after another reading “I am so, so sorry. I have no words. Are you okay?”). I was grateful upon reflecting that my country has a (mostly) functional democracy, even if not everyone is always happy with the result. I was grateful for the ongoing progress of women in politics in my home state of California, where Nancy Pelosi has previously held the highest government position below President/VP, where Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein were re-elected so many times they arguably normalized women holding congressional seats, and where at least one woman that I voted for – Kamala Harris – just became 1) the newest female California Senator, 2) the first black California Senator, and 3) a potential hopeful for a future presidential run (the new Obama, some say). And I was grateful to watch the outpouring of protesters into streets across America, demonstrating that finally, people are waking up to the fact that this is not a game, this is not a joke, this is reality, and people’s lives, livelihoods and basic human freedoms are at stake. For some, maybe the wake up call was a bit too late.

And yet here we are, one week later. And I’m still grieving.

I’m not marching side by side with my fellow Americans to protest the election, or physically standing in solidarity with Standing Rock. I’m not participating in vigils mourning the devastation that is about to befall up to 11 million undocumented immigrants or any member of any minority group for that matter. Instead, I’m sitting at my desk in Uganda, watching as Americans here quickly return to normal, somehow able to hold their heads up high and move on.

In my mind, the ability to hold my head up high and move on is a privilege not shared by everyone. I’m a white male living across the planet – I’m much more shielded from the brunt of what Trump can accomplish in the next 4 years than many, many Americans and others around the world. But my moral conviction keeps telling me it’s just not time to move on and shake it off yet.

So when does the grieving stop? How does it stop?

I dedicate my professional life to fighting white patriarchy – a global paradigm that Trump proudly embodies. I do this through my work to prevent violence against women in Uganda, recognizing my place as an intersectional oppressor trying to bring change from within, to stay on the right side of history, and to support movements I believe in from behind the scenes rather than hijacking the front line. I know I’m doing my own part to battle the damage being done. And I know that the words I write and the hugs I give are healing for many people, and I have a responsibility to keep sharing my light with the world.

I want these things to help pull me out of this pit of despair that I feel for the future of my country and the world, but they haven’t yet. I took comfort in what President Barack Obama said in yesterday’s press conference: “I was telling my team you’re allowed to mope for week and a half, maybe two weeks if you really need it, but after that, we gotta brush ourselves off and get back to work.” Truth be told, Obama’s words have been my sole source of comfort in this time, and I commend him for continuously demonstrating his character and values through the way he is handling the transition. And I deeply appreciate how angry he must feel right now, and how he is staying strong for the rest of us. He has been a great leader, and has inspired us in our leadership through his integrity, his compassion, and his genuine belief in the good of humankind.

So I’m writing this to honor my commitment to self-care through writing. I am writing to give myself grace, and perhaps even another week to mourn. Then, I promise: I’ll brush it off as best I can and use all this as fuel to the fire that will ultimately burn white patriarchy to the ground. I’m writing this so people don’t get the idea that I’m good at being an optimist. Sometimes I let the darkness consume me, and allow it to run its course.

If you’re still mourning, feel free to reach out. Let’s figure out how to move past this and rebuild, stronger, together.

“We trust that the moon shall guide us”

I try to allow my life to be governed less by time – a human construct crafted to bring order to the chaos of life as it continues to slip by – than by the cycles of the moon. This lunar cycle seems to be particularly critical in a moment of global healing. For those that have not yet discovered the power of the moon, just wait. It will find you soon enough.

Lunar energies are consistently present in the unfolding of events, of ideas, of attitudes, and of shifts from one phase of any given chapter in life to the next. I have been blessed to spend some of the most powerful full moons on Bulago Island, a paradise in the heart of Uganda’s claim to Lake Victoria. Today marks not only a full moon, but a powerful SuperMoon, in the sign of Taurus – the sign of my birth – on the 14th, a number that has brought magic and wonder into my life since it discovered me in my teenage years.

I treated myself to a powerful meditation while watching the rising moon reflect upon Lake Victoria, and in turn reflected on my own light and how it has felt virtually muted for the past week. The light of the moon comforted me in that moment, and I was reminded not only of the power of one’s inner light to bring beauty to the world, but of the cyclical nature of the life we live in. Just as the last full moon ushered in an explosion of inspiration and clarity, this full moon has been marred by what I believe to be a colossal step backward for humankind and particularly for those in my home country. But just eight years before that, I believe America took a giant leap forward. Eight years before that, backward, and on and on. And there have been countless cycles of forward and backward movement in between.

These cycles continue whether we like them to or not, but each shift, whether positive or negative, allows opportunities for deeper reflection. And for that, I try to be grateful.

I’m still trying to make sense of this whole mess, and I am trying to make sense of what this lunar cycle means to me. An avid follower of Mystic Mamma, I found comfort in the astral insights for this SuperMoon in my birth sign, reminding us to reconnect with our own set of values and what matters to us, to not dwell in the past or fear the future, but to celebrate this holy moment of which we are all a part. This moon also reminds us to re-ground in Mother Earth, and opportunity regularly afforded to me in this pocket of the world, the birthplace of humankind and constant reminder of the beauty and resilience of humanity in the face of adversity. I am blessed for this island paradise and my regular access to its unfathomable energy. I am blessed for the love I have found here, the love I have shared.

To be honest, I have no idea what is about to happen. I have no idea how to pull myself out of this anger, this fear, this feeling that borders on hate…

And here, as I write this with my music shuffling through on random, on comes Nahko’s Manifesto, here to remind me of words I believe we could all use right now:

Well this is real talk.
This is non-stop.
It is looped now tongue and mind.
Played off the sidewalk, straight to your boombox.
How it travels from ear to memory.
Well this is medicine.
There’s a message within,
and each will find it in their own time.

Well this is music.
This is how I use it.
It makes you move and move with movement.
This is how I focus, knowing it’s not hopeless;
but it sure starts with me and ends on a whole note.
Musical medicine, this is my healing,
for past and present future things to come.

I see people stressin’,
over space and possessions.
Out of fear and a need for visual aids of our abundance.
Give me examples, or something tangible;
something I can get my hands on and find real meaning.
Where is the medicine?
Well I’ve been searching,
and I suppose each will find their own kind.

Well everything’s at stake.
It makes it hard to concentrate.
And there are men who see a war and see a paycheck.
Such different programming, to live so fearfully.
Terror this and terror that, terrible reality.
There is no medicine on the television,
so turn it off and turn yourself around.

And let’s just face it.
The world’s fuckin’ racist
Even the most peaceful of us gets caught in the trend.
To live cohesively is almost a fantasy,
and we ought to know it starts with humbling our egos.
What is the medicine?
For cultural woundin’,
has it’s moments, has it’s melodies, has it’s time.

Well I was listening to the outgoing seasons.
About climate change and some of the reasons.
When the sky opened, like I been hopin’;
and there came horses by the thousands
And there was thunder on their tongues.
And lightning on their minds.
And they were singing this old melody from some other time:

They sang don’t waste your hate.
Rather, gather and create.
Be of service.
Be a sensible person.
Use your words and don’t be nervous.
You can do this, you’ve got purpose.
Find your medicine and use it.”

Voting the Anger Out

I’ve just been advised by a nice little piece in Huffington Post that I should let my anger out by 1) voting (check, thanks to the U.S. Embassy in Kampala) and 2) writing it out. Writing tends to be my standard release, but after a highly emotional past week and a morning filled with a number of near-breakdowns, I realize I have not yet allowed myself to vent my seething anger and crippling frustration about the current American presidential election. A survey by the American Psychological Association found that a majority of Americans are feeling high levels of stress as a result of this election cycle (duh), and since I have recently been writing more about ways in which others can cope with negative emotions, I guess I will heed my own advice. Now, with the soundtrack for Before the Flood pulsing in my ears (“we will all be judged by what we leave behind“), here we go.

Today, November 8th, winding up an unprecedented turnout for early voting in the United States, those Americans who have not yet cast their vote will head to the polls, and vote to either 1) make h(er)story by electing the first (fucking finally) female President of the United States of America, an incredibly qualified candidate who has dedicated her life to public service and put up with our endless barrage of ungrateful shit along the way, one who will continue to represent many of the darker sides of the American political system, but one who will at the very least maintain a status quo that our beloved President Barack Obama has fought tirelessly for over the past 8 years, and at the very best will lead America into a new age where unity, intelligent bipartisan policy, and basic respect for the millions of people across our great country who continue to suffer at the hands of ignorance and oppression, where girls can see the limitless possibilities of their dreams manifested in reality, and where we can continue to believe that we as a people are moving forward, not backward.

Or…

2) prove to the entire fucking planet that we really ARE that stupid, that afraid, that malicious, that racist, that sexist, that childish, that stubborn, that ungrateful, that selfish, that oblivious to the damage that can and will be inflicted on both domestic and foreign policy under the rule of a sociopathic reality T.V. star with absolutely no qualifications or competence to lead an adult campaign let alone the most powerful country on Earth.

He poses the question: “Do you want America to be ruled by the corrupt political class, or do you want America to be ruled again by the people?” To which his flock cries, “Lock her up!” (mob justice) and “She’s a witch!” (mob justice, sexism and insanity). There we have it: the presumed underlying ethos behind Trump’s support and the division we have trudged through in this election cycle. The problem is, in many ways, Hillary represents (to many) the untrustworthy, conniving nature of American politics, and Trump is seen as a solution. The main problem is, that solution, and those who support it, is dripping with vile racist and sexist ideology that permeates America in ways that many have refused to acknowledge. We keep scratching our heads and wondering, “How did we get here?” and “Can this really be happening?”

Well, acknowledge it. This ideology is alive and well in America, maybe even stronger than it was before 2016. It’s very, very real. It is a rabid attack dog, foaming at the mouth, eyes locked on its target, and it’s chain has officially snapped. America’s ignorance is out for blood.

My purpose in life is two-fold: I am here to connect with people and learn as much as I possibly can about this life and our place in it, and I am here to make this life better for my future daughters (and sons) to live in. In the event that Hillary, for whatever reason, does not win tomorrow, then it is very possible that I will be bringing my first child into a world where Trump is President of the United States (assuming a worst-case scenario of a 2-term presidency, of course). I am not alone in this fear.

I recently learned that members of my own family support Trump, and have already cast their vote. This does not surprise me. I come from a poor, white upbringing in a generally ‘Red’ part of California, where many Americans are jaded by political decisions that continue to neglect the lower-middle class in favor of big business and political elites. To many of these individuals, Trump represents the change and progress America needs to strengthen the white middle class who would otherwise be further disenfranchised should minorities suddenly begin to earn equal opportunities to the white majority. It’s racist, it’s ill-informed, but it’s their vote. It certainly cast a darker cloud upon this election season for me personally, but I took comfort in the votes cast by those who raised me – from my grandmother, to my sisters, to my mother (in my mind, my vote was for her, because due to voter ID laws, an expired license crawling through the DMV systems, and confusing processes that bar millions from voting every year, she was unable to cast her vote. Don’t worry mom, I got you).

Then just this week, I learned that my father – Texas born, long-time California resident – spent his weekend canvassing for Trump in the state in which he currently lives. Which state is that? Florida.

We are all entitled to our opinion. We are all entitled to our vote. As Louis C.K. says, “If you vote for Hillary you’re an adult, if you vote for Trump you’re a sucker, if you don’t vote at all, you’re an asshole.” At least my father is voting, at least he is taking part in the process, even if I disagree with his vote. But this whole campaign dug deeper into my psyche and soul when my mother – the woman who nurtured me to be the compassionate, empathetic feminist that I am today – was unable to vote for Hillary, and my father – the man whose anger, racism and violent oppression ultimately fueled me to become a patriarchy-dismantling activist – was actively convincing others to vote for Trump.

Thus, to me, on both macro and micro levels, this election is white patriarchy at its worst. Donald Trump is white patriarchy at its worst. Beyond the fact that 35% of Trump’s Twitter followers also follow white supremacist Twitter accounts,  beyond the growing list of women who have claimed to be victims of sexual assault or misconduct at the tiny hands of Trump, beyond the “nasty woman” comment…a vote for Donald Trump is a vote to maintain the patriarchy. And I somehow feel that my bloodline is either completely oblivious to this or they just do not care. They see progress – we see maintenance of a world order driven by greed, narcissism and stupidity.

I am confident that we will make the right choice. I am confident that when I wake up tomorrow morning, Hillary Clinton will be the President-elect of the United States. I am confident that I will be celebrating alongside my American, Ugandan, English, German, Swedish, Italian, Dutch, Spanish and every-country-on-Earth friends tomorrow night. But I had to get all this out, because I’m fucking exhausted, and I know you are too.

It’s all about to be over. A massive, gaping wound has been left on American history, but we need to expose our greatest weaknesses in order to find ways to become Stronger Together. The election is almost over…the work has just begun.

Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.

I’m with her.

Feeding the Right Wolf

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“A grandfather is talking with his grandson and he says there are two wolves inside of us which are always at war with each other. One of them is a good wolf which represents things like kindness, bravery and love. The other is a bad wolf, which represents things like greed, hatred and fear. The grandson stops and thinks about it for a second then he looks up at his grandfather and says, “Grandfather, which one wins?”

The grandfather quietly replies, the one you feed.”

This parable was recently revealed to me by someone who cares deeply about the war that I, like millions of people all over the world, face every single day: the war between happiness and depression. Depression, anxiety and obsessive thoughts and behavior have been a regular fixture in my life for as long as I can remember. Sometimes these episodes last only a couple of days, sometimes weeks, sometimes months at a time. I force a sunny disposition in public spaces during these periods when I have to, but it is difficult to explain to someone who has not suffered from depression just how physically, mentally and emotionally draining it is to pretend you are someone you are not.

The parable of the two wolves feels particularly poignant to me in a chapter of my life where wolf symbolism and imagery have played an increasingly powerful role. It started with discovering my new favorite book Women Who Run With the Wolves, which has since informed my internal explorations as an openly effeminate male and emerging feminist; it continued when I began having dream visitations by a wolf that I interpreted to be my Spirit Animal (feel free to laugh…that’s another story for another post); and Wolf has now become a nickname bestowed upon me by the dear soul who shared with me this powerful story of the war between the “good wolf” and the “bad wolf.”

Much like the keen ears of the wolf are inundated with a never-ending cacophony of sound, my mind is incessantly flooded with more thoughts than I can ever hope to keep track of. I try to quiet my mind through meditation and yoga; I keep lists to keep myself on track, and I journal regularly to try to make sense of it all.

When I perceive my life as good, I experience something akin to ecstasy and marvel at the beauty of the very fabric of existence. I throw my head back and laugh at the sky, and in turn, my good wolf joins in to howl at the moon.

When a negative thought comes into my head, however, it is amplified just as much, if not more. Those close to me (particularly significant others) can testify to my ability to obsess over a word, an action, a thought. Throughout my life, this has bred paranoia, jealousy, feelings of hopelessness, and convincing myself of the notion that I would never get to enjoy a normal life like others do.

Ladies and gentlemen – meet my big, bad wolf.

I have read countless articles and testimonials on struggles with depression, peoples’ lists of tips for how to mitigate it, inspiring stories on how people overcame it, both with and without the use of anti-depressants, selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and ongoing therapy. I spent a significant period of time on anti-depressants and did not like the way they affected my mind, because while that over-activity often associated with my “bad wolf” decreased, so did the cries of my good wolf. The energetic, inspiring and deeply loving me seemed to slip away. I removed SSRIs from my system and embarked on a long-overdue spiritual journey, finding some semblance of inner peace through the patterns in the stars, omens in the world around me, meditation, yoga practice, and backpacking across some of the most beautiful terrain of the United States. But through my periods of depression, I also medicate in other ways: I turn to vices, I become derailed, I lose focus.

I lose myself, so much so that I stop trying to find solace in the words of fellow depression-sufferers and opinions of psychiatric/spiritual experts alike.

Despite my chronic frustrations that none of these words and opinions can actually help me, an article in The Atlantic recently caught my eye, titled How To Build A Happier Brain. It takes a look at a new book by Dr. Rick Hanson of U.C. Berkeley (which I have just ordered), who makes the argument that “our brains are naturally wired to focus on the negative, which can make us feel stressed and unhappy even though there are a lot of positive things in our lives…Hanson’s book (a sort of self-help manual grounded in research on learning and brain structure) doesn’t suggest that we avoid dwelling on negative experiences altogether—that would be impossible. Instead, he advocates training our brains to appreciate positive experiences when we do have them, by taking the time to focus on them and install them in the brain.”

Essentially, Hanson holds that we are evolutionarily programmed to hard-wire negative experiences into our brains for means of survival, while hard-wiring positive experiences requires an active effort on our part. It is about “taking the extra 10, 20, 30 seconds to enable everyday experiences to convert to neural structure so that increasingly, you have these strengths with you wherever you go.”

This goes beyond the sort of ‘positive thinking’ that so many non-depressed individuals try to offer as advice to those of us who suffer from depression (thanks for the advice guys, but ‘looking on the bright side’ just doesn’t work for everyone!). Hanson differentiates between positive thinking and ‘taking in the good’ – a more active reflection on the balance between negative and positive in each experience, and appreciating the positive in relation to its negative counterpart.

This, to me, is the same concept as the parable told by the grandfather. All of life has its positive and negative parts – and while some people are simply better wired to be able to focus on the howls of the good wolf rather than the bitter cries of the bad wolf, some of us are, chemically speaking, just not as lucky.

I do what I can to focus on those ecstatic moments when my good wolf is in control. I try to internalize them. I close my eyes and take a deep, intentional breath and hold onto that feeling, and allow gratitude to wash over me like a cleansing wave and spread from my fingertips and my toes and my third eye out into the Universe that swirls around me. I can visualize that positive energy diffusing outward and making the world a better place. I smile, I laugh, I cry, I thank myself, I thank the Universe, I thank everyone.

I feed my good wolf while I can, because I know that soon, the bad wolf is going to get hungry…

I was recently chatting with a friend while in a very enlightened state of mind, telling her “I feel really great these past couple weeks, very inspired, very clear, very happy.” To which she replied, “are you sure that’s not just your brain in a ‘high mode’ and you’re going to switch back to a low mode soon?” It was a mildly hurtful statement, but a reasonable one and I could see where it came from. As I write this, my good wolf is in control, and has been since the last full moon (I’d prefer to measure my moods in moon cycles…it makes more sense to me and to the parable).

But how long will it last?

I hope that Hanson’s book, Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence, will offer some useful perspectives, and I’ll have to write a followup to this piece once I’ve read it. In the meantime, I wanted to write this post as a reminder to those who suffer from the same inner battle, the same competition between their good and bad wolves, that you are not alone in the fight.

Feeding the right wolf is up to each and every one of us. While it may take years of practice to learn to truly ‘take in the good’, we can start by surrounding ourselves with people that lift us up, inspire us, reflect the best and brightest sides of ourselves. We can allow our creativity to flow from us, whether through painting or writing or dancing our fucking asses off. We can focus on the feeling in our core when we laugh from deep within, and the feeling in our hearts when we cry hard enough to release whatever is weighing us down. We can dedicate our time to helping others and to making our corner of the world a better place to live in. We can savor every single bite of the meal on the table before us and we can look someone deep in the eye next time we say the words “Thank you.”

We can be the best versions of ourselves, and feed the best versions of ourselves. We all have that power, and none of us are alone.

Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and promise yourself that today, even if just for a moment, you will feed the right wolf.